While a cheerleading accident may not be as likely to happen as an accident in a football or basketball game, cheerleading injuries tend to be more severe. Injuries from cheerleading make up more than half the catastrophic injuries in female athletes. According to the National Safety Council there were 35,894 cheerleading injuries treated in hospital emergency departments in 2014. There is a long list of causes for cheerleading accidents. Luckily, with the right information many of these causes can be prevented. I’ve compiled the following list of common cheerleading injuries along with tips for preventing them. Please know that this is by no means a completely comprehensive list, which is why I’ve included a list of references for further reading at the end of this post.
Problem: Overuse injuries.
There is more pressure on cheerleaders today than there used to be. At most high schools, cheerleading is now a year-round sport. Cheerleaders are often expected to cheer for three athletic seasons and then take part in competitions. This increases their chance of overuse injuries. When not treated completely, overuse injuries can have more serious long-term effects. As well, when cheerleaders aren’t at their strongest, they can put themselves and their teammates at higher risk for a cheerleading accident.
Solution: Know when too much is too much.
Never encourage your child to “play through the pain.” If they ever experience pain or soreness for more than 48 hours, they should be evaluated by a medical professional. Always make sure they follow any instructions for treatment and recover fully before returning to practice.
Cheerleaders are often expected to perform on field sidelines, gym floors, running tracks, and foam floors. These surfaces each have a different amount of cushioning and degree of levelness.
Prevention Method: Stunts should be practiced on every surface.
Make sure that your child is practicing on a surface before they are expected to perform on it. The University of Pittsburgh Department of Sports Medicine recommends that coaches change the intensity of their practices when the team is switching from one type of surface to another. This change in intensity will help cheerleaders adjust to the change in how forgiving the surface will be. For example, when moving from football season to basketball season, coaches should decrease the intensity of training. This will help the team adjust to the less forgiving surface of the gym floor after months of performing on a field.
Problem: Performing skills that are too difficult.
With so much pressure on cheerleaders now, your child may feel pressured to learn a new skill before they are ready. If they aren’t prepared with basic training before learning a difficult skill, that will put them at risk for a cheerleading accident.
Solution: Emphasize good technique.
Make sure your child has learned the proper techniques for basic skills before jumping into more difficult ones. Without proper training, performing higher level stunts isn’t just more difficult, it’s unsafe.
Make sure that your child is taking these precautions when learning a new stunt:
- Practicing in an area with plenty of space (far from hazards like walls, poles, chairs, etc.)
- Practicing on a gymnastic mat.
- Using spotters when needed.
A spotter is someone who physically assists them in safely completing a stunt.
Also, encourage your child to warm up before practicing. They should be beginning practices with a light cardio warm up, followed by stretches for their shoulders, wrists, and thigh and upper hip muscles.
Have a serious injury and need legal advice? Contact Howard Blau.
For more information about cheerleading accident prevention:
Here is the website for The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA). Be sure to know what their rules and regulations are and make sure that your child’s coach is abiding by them.
Also, be sure to read the following references:
“Cheerleading Injuries.” UPMC Sports Medicine. 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017 from http://www.upmc.com/Services/sports-medicine/for-athletes/my-sport/cheerleading/Pages/cheerleading.aspx.
“Preventing Cheerleading Injuries.” Stop Sports Injuries. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2017 from http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/Cheerleading_Injury_Prevention.aspx.
“Sports Injuries.” Insurance Information Institute. 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017 from http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/sports-injuries.
“Sports and Recreational Injuries.” Injury Facts. National Safety Council. 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2017 from http://www.nsc.org/NewsDocuments/NSC_InjuryFacts2016_Page%20154.pdf.
“Definition: Spotting.” Gymnastics Zone. 20 December 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2017 from http://gymnasticszone.com/definition-spotting/.